FE steps in with the vital recipe

14th September 2001 at 01:00
.A college has helped out a school desperate for food technology teachers and provided a shining example of college-school partnership. Simon Midgley reports

A London FE college has stepped in to deliver food technology teaching to a local secondary school which found itself without a suitable teacher halfway through a GCSE course.

In an example of how FE lecturers can work in partnership with secondary schools, St Augustine's high school in Kilburn Park, London turned to Westminster Kingsway college for help when it was unable to recruit a permanent food technology teacher.

Last week Education Secretary Estelle Morris said the Government would legislate to allow all FE lecturers to teach in schools.

St Augustine's 45 Year 11 pupils had become increasingly disaffected after a succession of supply teachers. So last year Westminster Community Partnerships - part of Westminster City Council's education department - and the school's new head, Richard Cooper, decided on a different approach.

They contacted Westminster Kingsway, which is well known for its catering courses, and bought in the services of two lecturers to teach two groups of pupils.

The pupils were taken off a GCSE food technology course and put on a National Vocational Qualification level 1 course which involved basic cookery such as how to bake bread.

Neil Ritchie of Westminster Council said the lecturers were "fantastic. They turned the students' behaviour around. The physical act of cooking is very therapeutic. There were young people who were all over the place in their personal lives who seemed to get an awful lot out of it".

The two sets of courses cost the council pound;20,000. Nearly all the pupils gained a food preparation certificate and a Royal Society of Hygiene basic food hygiene certificate. They have also received a college achievement certificate in cooking skills.

Now the school has asked the college to set up a vocational GCSE course in catering. This term the school will offer a catering GCSE.

Stephen Hyde, the college's NVQ section leader, said: "The joint project has proved a great success and several of the students have decided to take up cooking. They have applied to be enrolled on our professional chefs diploma course next year."

As part of their training, the pupils prepared a three-course meal for 40 guests at the college's Vincent Square centre. Guests included celebrity chef Brian Turner.

Headteacher Mr Copper described Kingsway's contribution as "outstanding". He added that the college was now looking to make links with other trade areas as well as building on its links with Kingsway.

Jenny Jupe, deputy chief executive of the Design and Technology Association, said that there is a desperate shortage of food technology teachers, especially in the south east of England.

"I take two or three phone calls a week from schools asking me where to find a design and technology teacher, but more often than not it's food technology they want."

Her association was concerned that teachers with other subject disciplines were being deployed.

"Simply being able to cook a meal at home does not turn you into a food technology teacher," she said.

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